“To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine- despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a percentage point worldwide”
-Matt Ridley, The Spectator
Every Sunday morning our unshakeable family routine was to walk to the highest point on our farm, accompanied by Pepper, our Jack Russell, and sometimes by Hamish, our enormous red Tamworth boar (who thought he was a dog). From there, on one side the whole of the Lake District stretched out before us and on the other side we looked out onto the Duddon Estuary and the Irish Sea, with the Isle of Man in the far distance. I persuaded my children that the climb was worth it to see the best view in England. Part of that view, stretching out along the horizon, included the Walney off-shore wind farm which has now become the biggest in the world, with 120 turbines, each larger than the London Eye. I didn’t find them at all offensive to look at; in fact they added to the majesty of the view.
I’m not sure that I’d feel the same way about them now, with the news that the two operators of the wind farm, Vattenfall and Dong Energy are receiving, respectively, £139m and £110m a year in government subsidies. These subsidies are funded by add-ons to household electricity bills, which are paid through the Renewables Obligation Certificate, an accreditation which places an obligation on energy suppliers to purchase a set percentage of the electricity they sell to customers from renewable sources. In Britain, although the total energy which comes from renewables is only 0.6%, the EU Renewables Directive will impose extra consumer costs of £15 billion per household by 2010, which is £670 per household per year.*
It’s probably a good thing that I sold the farm last year. Having to look across at the symbol of all that waste, after the long climb to the summit, would almost certainly have resulted in apoplexy.
*According to the Renewable Energy Foundation.